Эссе: Critical Essay by Ben Edwin Perry

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... Before Phaedrus, fables written in Greek prose were gathered into collections intended to serve primarily as repertoires of rhetorical materials, comparable to a collection of proverbs or apothegms of famous men, which would serve the needs of speakers or writers in quest of illustrations to be used within the context of an oration, a history, or an essay of some kind. Such a fable-collection, written in prose, was informative in theory and purpose, rather than literary or artistic, although its author might, and usually did, take pains in the stylizing of it, so as to give it in reality a literary value apart from its ultilitarian raison d'кtre. The collection might be read in whole or in part for its own sake as entertainment, in case anyone chose to make that use of it, and some probably did; but it was not put forth by its author in the guise of literature or belles lettres, nor was it looked upon as such by the reading public. Phaedrus and Babrius were the first writers to bring a disconnected series of Aesopic fables on to that avowedly artistic plane of literature, as an independent form of writing; but necessarily in verse, in order to sanction it as poetic composition. Only as such could it become, in theory, an independent form of literature in its own right, instead of a dictionary of metaphors. Told in verse a fable had the literary rating and recognition of poetry, by virtue of the form alone in which it was written, without regard to the subject matter; but a fable told in prose without a context, or a collection of such fables, was not literature, properly speaking, but raw material meant to be used in the making of literature, or orally. Archilochus in the seventh century B.C. had occasionally made use of beast fables written in iambic verse as a means of satirizing personal enemies, and Callimachus likewise includes a few Aesopic fables in his Iambics, just as he includes myths about gods and heroes; but in both cases it is the artistic verse that constitutes the literary form and the sanction for its publication apart from a context. A myth as such is not a literary form, but may be used as subject-matter in various kinds of poetry or prose, and the same is true of what we call fable. In the early period of Greek literature, and in the Alexandrian Age, fables might be the subject-matter of separate poems, but much more commonly they were used subordinately as illustrations in a larger context, whether of poetry as in Hesiod,1 Aeschylus,2 Sophocles,3 and Aristophanes,4 or in prose, as in Herodotus,5 Xenophon,6 Plato,7 and Aristotle.8 It was not until late in the fourth century B.C. that the first collection of Aesopic fables in prose which we know to have been made was published by the orator and antiquarian scholar Demetrius of Phalerum as a handbook of materials intended primarily for the use of writers and speakers. ...